A group set up for the stated purpose of putting pressure on the government to recover the Naalain-i-Mubarik, a pair of slippers said to belong to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) that was stolen from Badshahi Mashjid nine years ago, appears to have become a platform for attacks on the Auqaf Department’s director general.
Four types of colour posters bearing pictures of Auqaf DG Tahir Raza Bukhari have been pasted on walls all over the city. They blame him for the theft of the shoes and call for his sacking and arrest. They also express contempt for him personally and his family background.
Posters and banners insulting the DG were a regular feature of a recent series of demonstrations arranged by the Bazyabi-i-Naalain-i-Pak Action Committee (BNPAC) that ended on July 31. A regular participant in such demonstrations said that there had been an influx of new people at the protests.
“In the beginning we were surprised to see these two to three dozen new people at the demonstration with their own posters and banners, most of them having derogatory remarks against Tahir Raza Bukhari,” he said. “Now it is routine.”
The attacks are believed to originate from Maulana Abdulkhabir Azad, the khateeb of Badshahi Masjid, who has been engaged in a blame game over the shoes with the director general since they were stolen. Bukhari was suspended for two years on some other issue, but later returned to the post.
Azad is known to want a permanent appointment to the post of Badshahi Masjid khateeb, like his father before him, but Bukhari has opposed this.
The BNPAC was set up by Pir SA Jafri, a flamboyant figure who has attracted much press attention with his antics during protests on the issue. He has worn black and gone bare foot ever since the shoes were stolen as a mark of protest. The BNPAC is a five-party alliance, though Jafri is its single most prominent leader.
Supporters of Azad, one of them a senior member of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and a businessman, began currying favour with the committee over the course of the last year and a half or so. They were also able to recruit supporters from amongst Auqaf Department officials who had been suspended by the director general. After a sumptuous feast in Lahore last year, the BNPAC announced a series of protests at which the anti-DG posters and chants started appearing.
Asked about recent contributions to the committee, Jafri told The Express Tribune that he had not looked too hard at where the money came from. “Frankly, I am a poor man and can’t afford advertising expenses. The other parties in the alliance are the same. If someone is supporting us through posters and banners and of course with manpower, we ought to thank him instead of delving into unnecessary details.”
Azad denied that he had anything to do with the smear campaign against the director general. “My father had hundreds of thousands of followers throughout the country,” he said. “If I decide to go against anyone, there are more effective platforms available for me.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2011.